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ABOUT THE AUTHORS Bob Davies Bob has been teaching drawing and painting for more than 20 years. He passionately believes that anyone can create pleasing artwork when theyre shown certain fundamental techniques something that the schooling system sadly fails to do. Bob is the creator of what was the number one selling watercolour instruction DVD series in the world, Watercolour Secrets, and the accompanying e-book has been downloaded by more than a quarter of a million people worldwide. He now helps run ArtTutor. James Willis James works principally in watercolour and oils, taking his inspiration from everyday scenes within an architectural setting. He tries to capture the play of colour and light in people and buildings, and his pictures are instantly recognisable with the bold, dymanic brushstrokes, all conveying a sense of activity to his artwork. James is the resident artist at Sir John Soane's Museum where he supports the museum's learning programme. He tutors adult learners and young people, inspiring and encouraging with his lively and informative approach. You can find out more about Jane at www.jameswillisart.co.uk
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CONTENTS Introduction Section 1 Its About Creating Value 1.1 What is value?
1.2 And what is value contrast? 1.3 Value contrast applies to colour too 1.4 Form and viewing distance
Section 2 Tools To Check Value
2.1 Squint and defocus your eyes 2.2 Use a grey scale
2.3 Make your own redeye filter Section 3 Monochrome Exercises
3.1 Exercise 1 Castle drawing 3.2 Exercise 2 Monochrome painting: Lake Garda
Section 4 Colour Exercises
4.1 Exercise 1 Value match real objects 4.2 Exercise 2 Full colour painting: Big Tones in Rome
Section 5 Extra Value Tips
5.1 Abrupt and transitional value contrast 5.2 Counter change and focal points
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Page 13 Page 14 Page 18
Page 19 Page 28
Page 43 Page 45
Page 63 Page 68
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INTRODUCTION Over many years, Ive seen students looking ruefully at their latest painting, wondering why it hasnt turned out as they expected. Theyve mixed nice colours (not muddy), the perspective has been pretty good and there may have been very little wrong with the composition. Yet invariably there follows a comment along the lines of: ...Well, its OK, but somethings missing and I dont know what is or even if I did, how I go about fixing it Now lots of skills and techniques go into making a good painting but there is one that stands out. Most of our art tutors and experienced artists agree its the number one reason why a piece of art looks poor. This e-book outlines what that is. More importantly, it shows you how to overcome the problem so youll never be trapped by it again. Youve probably heard of it already but Id be willing to suggest that you dont have a real practical understanding of how it can affect your paintings and drawings. Dont under-estimate or dismiss the simplicity of what it is. Without it, your pictures will always remain a tantalizing step away from being the minor masterpieces you strive to achieve. Read and apply the techniques and exercises in this e-book and you will get to understand:
Why your pictures lack depth Why they look flat, dull and lifeless Why an otherwise good composition doesnt seem to work Why just using brighter colours seems to have no great effect
And youll discover:
How to give your picture punch, vibrancy and impact How to create depth and that 3D look that jumps off the page Simple ways to plan your picture to avoid problems in the future
This e-book will teach you not just techniques but a state of mind.
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So what is this number one mistake? Its something called tonal or value contrast. And if your artwork doesnt make proper use of it, it will have no life, no real form or shape, no punch, and certainly no oomph thats going to make you want to eagerly show it off to family and friends. You can read this e-book from cover-to-cover in under an hour. A lot of people will do just that and then never actually work through the exercises. Please dont be one of those people! Follow along. Get your pencils and brushes out and work with these techniques. Youll be delighted with the results!
Image 1 This painting has punch! You might think its the vibrant use of colour and that helps. But more important are the contrasting values and where theyve been placed something youre about to learn all about!
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SECTION 1 ITS ABOUT CREATING VALUE 1.1 What is value? Youll often hear professional artists and art tutors use various terms when they talk about producing a painting, terms like: hues, tone, value, shades, tints, chroma. All of these relate to the wider subject of colour theory. Dont worry, the purpose of this e-book isnt to convert you into an expert in colour theory! The goal is to have you producing much more pleasing and impactful artwork by fully understanding a few key principles on a practical level. Yep, we need to cover a little bit of theory but it wont be heavy going and well use plenty of real-world examples and exercises so that it really sinks in. So lets begin with one of the terms above value Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. So a dark blue has greater value than a light blue. If you imagine a scale of value, black would be at one end of the extreme and white at the other. 1.2 And what is value contrast? As you know, artists work on a flat 2-dimensional piece of paper or canvas. They have to use illusion in order to make objects in their pictures look 3-dimensional and jump off the surface. They achieve this, to a large extent, through value contrast. We already know that value refers to how light or dark a colour is, so let's get clear on what contrast means Contrast, in the wider sense, simply refers to the difference or similarity between two or more things we compare. High contrast means there's a lot of difference. Low contrast means there's very little difference. If youve ever played around with the contrast button on your TV set, youll know the sort of effect it can have
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In your artwork, all that value contrast refers to is the difference in lightness and darkness between various parts of the picture. Look at the two boxes I've drawn below: The top and sides of the box in Image 3 are similar in value (they're about the same darkness or lightness as each other). So we can say that Image 3 has low value contrast overall. In Image 4, the sides of the box are obviously very different in their value. We can say that this box has high value contrast. It probably doesn't need me to point it out, but can you see how Image 4 looks much more 3-dimensional and solid? It jumps off the page. The number one reason why poor-looking artwork looks, well, less than inspiring is because it makes poor use of value contrast. Poor use of value contrast will make an image look flat and 2-dimensional instead of punchy and solid. 1.3 Value contrast applies to colour too Most newcomers can grasp this concept of value contrast when producing a black and white picture - such as a pencil or charcoal drawing for example. Its obvious that using lighter and darker values is the only way to separate different shapes in a picture that has no colour.
Image 2 the effect of changing the contrast control on your TV from low, to normal, to high contrast
Image 3 Image 4
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However, in my experience, struggling artists arent nearly bold enough in the range of values they use their darkest darks arent dark enough and their lightest lights arent light enough. The result is often a flat-looking pencil sketch. Well address this problem with practical examples and exercises in Section 3 so that its never an issue in your artwork again. But to finish this section, I want to briefly address what happens when you add colour into the mix because thats when I think problems really start to occur. By now you know that a dark blue has greater value than, say, a light yellow. But (and this is crucial) did you know that two completely different colours that you might think will clearly stand out from each other could actually have the same value? Let's look at an example
In terms of value, you would say blue is usually darker than red, and red is certainly darker than yellow. The sides of this box in Image 5 are obviously easily distinguishable from one another. But there seems to be something not quite right here. The colours are bold but despite that, it seems a bit dull and lifeless.
In Image 6, let's strip away the colour to reveal the value in greyscale
Straight away, you can see the value of the three colours Cadmium Red, Cerulean Blue and Yellow Ochre in this case are identical. The eye can be fooled by a variety of colours being the same, or a very similar, value. Sure, a Pthalo or Ultramarine
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Blue is going to be stronger and darker than a Lemon Yellow, no matter how strong you paint the latter But when you start mixing your colours on the palette to create new ones or to make them lighter or darker, this is when you need to take into account how their value will fit into the overall picture, rather than merely concentrating on what sort of colour you create. Lets have another go at our coloured box and the same three colours in Image 7
This time Ive darkened the red, slightly lightened the blue and significantly lightened the yellow. Now the shapes look like a box, with form and light and shade, even without any shadow being cast.
You get the impression that strong light is falling on the top, with a bit less light on the blue side and the red side being in deep shadow. This happens irrespective of the colours Ive used because Ive adjusted their value to create the shape of the box. To confirm this, look at the new box in greyscale in Image 8
Notice how this box looks much more 3-dimensional? If you don't understand or check the value of the colours you place on your painting (and where you're placing them), the result is likely to be a flat, lifeless image that you won't be inspired to show off to friends
or family. 1.4 Form and viewing distance In our example of a box with high value contrast above, the different values we used for the three sides of the box reflect the light source -
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the way light strikes one side of the box and puts the others in relative shadow. The stronger the light source, the starker the contrast will be between the lights and darks. Compare these two photos (Images 9 & 10) of a simple white box In this sense, we are using value contrast to create form and give an object on a flat piece of paper a 3-dimensional look. Incidentally, a really wide range between the lightest lights and darkest darks, gives the impression of a stronger light source something well look at later on. Aside from creating form, we also use contrasting values to give an image a sense of depth and distance. Landscapes illustrate this point really well As an object moves farther into the distance it will have increasingly less value, in other words it becomes lighter. Even a very dark element (like a slate roof on a cottage) will appear relatively light when its far enough away. You can show this in a representational form by looking at the following two photos (Images 11 & 12)
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If you painted a landscape, youd probably have these three elements of sky, middle distance and foreground. In this case theyre represented by streaks of blue, green and brown. However, theyre all a pretty similar value (look at the greyscale version next to it). Now lets adjust them, in Images 13 and 14, to better represent distant sky, middle distance trees and a foreground field
Image 11 Image 12
Image 13 Image 14
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See how the adjustment of the sky and the tree colours has given, even in this abstract example, a much greater degree of depth and distance. Its even more apparent when you compare the two black and white versions. Moving on to something more realistic, take a look at the two sketch paintings below in Images 15 and 16 Image 15 - The values of the near hills are actually lighter compared to the distant hills. Its hard to distinguish between the middle distance hills because they are the same value. Image 16 - The values become progressively lighter into the distance. The edges of the middle distance hills are darker than the hills behind them to create contrast and separation. With that bit of theory under our hat, lets look at 3 simple tools you can use to help you see values within a painting much more easily
Image 15 Image 16
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SECTION 2 TOOLS TO CHECK VALUE 2.1 Squint and defocus your eyes People often squint slightly when they struggle to read something because its slightly out of focus for them. Subtle squinting reduces the extraneous light and can make a point of focus sharper and clearer. However, if you squint a bit harder and let your eyes defocus slightly, youll notice that your picture of the world becomes less detailed. Stripping out the detail allows you to see masses of colour and value (those light and dark areas) much more easily. Heres what squinting and defocusing your eyes should make things look like Squinting and checking for values (both in your own artwork as it progresses and your reference material) is something you should make a habit of. You really cant do too much of it during the painting process. Lets move on to tool number 2
Image 17 before squinting Image 18 after squinting (less detail, darks are darker, lights are lighter)
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2.2 Use a grey scale If you find squinting / defocusing your eyes doesnt make the various values of an image clear enough for you, you should try using a grey scale. In fact, even if squinting works well for you, a grey scale is so easy to make and so useful its well worth having one by your side whenever you paint. What is a grey scale? For our purposes, its simply a strip of card or paper with 5-7 values of grey that range...